As spring rolls in, the north east is filled with colorful flowering trees. Most of which aren’t native. But one small tree stands out, the redbuds. A native large shrub/small tree, the redbuds are covered in magenta pink flowers that occur in clumps right on the tree branch, or sometimes on the trunk itself. It is pollinated by long-tongued bees.
As the flower shape suggests, the redbuds belong to the Fabaceae family, also known as the pea/legume family.
The showy and long lasting flowers are why this plant is common in cultivation and is used in gardens and homes to add color to their spring gardens. Because its native, it also helps native bee population in the early months of spring and summer.
Monotropa hypopitys, or the pinesap, is a cousin of the more common ghost pipe. Both plants are parasitic depending on mycorrhizal fungi found in the forest floor. Unlike its cousin, Monotropa uniflora, pinesap flowers with multiple blooms on a single flowering stem. Like the ghost pipe, it can be found growing near oaks and pines.
The flower colors are varid, from yellow to purple/red. This is a rare plant in New Jersey with few populations recorded. I was lucky enough to find at least three distinct populations growing in a hilly portion of Jersey. One was flowering, while ther other was past its prime and beginning to fruit.
Swamp Milkweed is a tall moisture-loving plant found growing near bogs, swamps, fens, and streams. It prefers sunny spots where it flowers on a terminal spike in the summer. The flowers are showy pink to purple and carry nectar that attracts multiple pollinators. Shown here is a bumblebee trying to find its balance on swaying milkweed. It is a common species found across most of the continental US and into Canada. It is an excellent addition to any pollinator-friendly garden as its flowers are both showy and wonderfully scented.
Rhododendron periclymenoides, the Pinxter flower or the pink Azalea, is a native azalea found along the eastern coast from southern New York to Georgia. They flower in the spring with showy pink blooms and long stamens with a sweet smell.
I caught these finishing their bloom in the first week of June. Despite being late in its blooming season, it put on a good show, and the old flowers still caught my eye!
The plant is a good substitute for many non native species in the garden. Then plant forms a shrub near the forest floor and is used by birds and animals as cover.
After a month of moving to my new place I decided to upload pictures from Spring of 2020. I pray I can go out and photograph again!
Mountain laurels are a broadleaf shrub native to Eastern US, from Maine to northern Florida. Flowers range from white to light pink and bloom from May to early June. The plant’s size is heavily dependent on its growing conditions. In Appalachia, it can grow as large as a tree. While in less ideal conditions, the plant remains a smaller size.
The plant is known for its unique method of pollination. The anthers are under tension as the flower matures. When a pollinator lands on the flower, the tension is released, and pollen is flung on to the pollinator.
Rosa palustris, or the Swamp Rose is a native rose species found in most of eastern North America. It grows along streams and swamps in lightly acidic wet to moist soil.
As you can see, the flower looks similar to our garden rose, but is certainly not showy. The number of petals are limited (5) and arranged blandly. It takes lots of selective breeding to go from a wild rose to our splendid garden roses.
An interesting plant that spends its life primarily underground and is spotted thanks to its white flower spikes. The plant is an herbaceous parasite that lacks proper chlorophyll as it does not require sunlight to produce its energy. It can be found across the US, and in some parts of Asia. It flowers late summer and Autumn.
It is a mycoheterotrophic plant, which means it is a parasite on fungi that traditionally are in a symbiotic relationship with other plants/trees. Plants and fungi interact with each other in complex ways. Some, like most orchids, depend on fungi for germination and adult life. The relationship is called a Mycorrhiza. It is believed that plants, like the ghost pipe, evolved to only take from the fungi it was in a mutualistic relationship with, thus becoming a parasite.
Effectively these plants are parasites on other trees/plants in a mutualistic relationship with the fungi. This form of parasitism is not uncommon, and a specific description can be found in Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month.
There is another method, though, something that’s far more exciting! In the second half of the twentieth century, countries (US and USSR) were conducting nuclear tests. These tests released a plume of carbon isotopes (C-13), causing an increase in its prevalence in plant material alive around that time. Thus plant material decaying from before the tests and plants active during the tests have a different carbon signature. This difference has been exploited to distinguish between saprotrophs and mycoheterotrophs.
Notophthalmus viridescens,the eastern newt is a common newt found across eastern North America. The adults are not as striking as the juveniles (efts), which are brightly colored to warn you of their toxins.
Shown here is an individual eft we stumbled across in high point state park, New Jersey. The swamps of the High Point are unique and are biologically diverse. You can learn more about the bog here on this excellent blog that goes through its natural history and its unusual evolution.
Utricularia, or more commonly known as Bladderwort, is a genus of carnivorous plants that are semi-aquatic to terrestrials. Their modified leaves underwater can catch small insects and even algae. Which technically makes them an omnivorous plant! You can find more information in this blog post. InDefenceOfPlants is an excellent source of plant information.
Shown above are two species I found in bloom, stripped bladderwort (Utricularia striata)[1 and 2] and the horned bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta) [3,4 and 5].
Here in New Jersey, you can find them growing in bogs. New Jersey hosts more than 10 species of bladderworts, some rare and threatened. They are hard to spot for most of the year, but in mid-summer, they pop out a pretty yellow flower blooming above the water surface. Clustered together, they put on quite a show.
Drosera filiformis, also known as thread-leaved sundew, is found across North America from Florida to Nova Scotia. They form rosettes with some of the tallest leaves found in the sundew genus. The variation in Florida can extend unto 18″ in length. The leaves grow straight up during early spring; the first two images show a […]